Celebrating Pianos! Rachmaninoff at 150

Northampton, MA - Smith College Department of Music presents Celebrating Pianos! Rachmaninoff at 150, a weekend festival celebrating the 150th anniversary of Rachmaninoff’s birth, with three concerts of all-Rachmaninoff programs on Saturday, April 22 at 2 and 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, April 23 at 3 p.m. in Sweeney Concert Hall. Saturday’s events are free and open to the public. Masks are optional and welcome.

The quintessential composer and legendary pianist, Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873–1943) gave his United States debut at Smith College in 1909. During his illustrious career, he returned to Smith three times and performed in John M. Greene Hall. In 1942, his cousin and sister-in-law Sophie Satin arrived at Smith as a research associate and later became a visiting associate professor of botany until her retirement in 1955. A portrait bust of the composer sits in the lobby of Sweeney Concert Hall, a gift by Vladimir Tropp to celebrate the centennial of Rachmaninoff’s U.S. debut.

Curated by pianist Jiayan Sun, Assistant Professor of Music and Associate Chair for Performance Activities, the three concerts will feature Rachmaninoff’s celebrated solo piano works interspersed with lesser-known chamber and vocal works, featuring distinguished guest artists, Smith faculty artists, and Smith student pianists. On Saturday, April 22 at 2 p.m., twelve Smith piano students will present Rachmaninoff’s early piano works, Morceaux de Fantaisie, op. 3, and Morceaux de Salon, op. 10, performed by Grace Leo ’24, Brianna Ray ’24, Millie Chen ’25, Handi Lu ’25, Chu Luo ’25, Hailey Niu ’25, Clara Yang ’25, Selena Zheng ’25, Ilana Diddams ’26, Annabelle Li ’26, Sarah Qin ’26, and Carly Saba ’26. This is a participating event of Smith College Celebrating Collaborations. At 6:30 p.m., pianists Jiayan Sun and Yang Liu will host a pre-concert discussion featuring guest artist Melvin Chen, Professor of Piano and Deputy Dean at the Yale School of Music, reflecting on Rachmaninoff’s legacy and the aspirational challenges of playing two-piano repertoire. At 7:30 p.m., guest artists and Smith faculty artists will present a chamber music program including both two-piano suites, Trio élégiaque no. 1, and selected songs. The program will feature guest artists pianist Melvin Chen and cellist Ignacy Gaydamovich, with Katherine Saik DeLugan, soprano; Joel Pitchon, violin; Yang Liu, piano; and Jiayan Sun, piano. This concert will be live-streamed. You can register online.

On Sunday, April 23 at 3 p.m., Smith College Department of Music and Valley Classical Concerts will jointly present pianist Sergei Babayan in an all-Rachmaninoff program. Armenian-American pianist Sergei Babayan is one of the leading pianists of our time. Praised for his emotional intensity, bold energy and remarkable levels of color, his latest CD release “Rachmaninoff” (Deutsche Grammophon 2020) was hailed by the international press as a groundbreaking recording and received numerous awards including BBC Recording of the Month and CHOC Classica. For tickets and more information, please visit the Valley Classical Concerts website.

All events on Saturday, April 22 are free and open to the public. For more information about the festival, please visit the Celebrating Pianos! webpage.